Brown University Library Special Collections

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Fleurs des Tranchées = Trench Flowers

Posted by Karen A. Eberhart on March 12, 2013

It arrived on my desk one morning.  A handmade scrapbook labeled Correspondances Militaires, 1916-1917 covered in paper the color of the French military uniform – bleu horizon.  Each letter was carefully pasted along one edge to a thin strip of paper.  Each letter was written to Emile Toulouse from his brothers Eugène and Jean and a smattering of friends and cousins.  They all served France during World War I.  Emile served as a firefighter in Paris.  Eugène served in the infantry.  Jean served with the artillery.

The most important function of war time letters is simply to assure family and friends that one is still in this world.  Eugène writes at the beginning of almost every letter and card exactly the same sentence:  “Je suis toujours en bonne santé et désire que ma lettre te trouve de même. = I am still in good health and hope that my letter finds you the same.”  The fact that Eugène wrote that for over 2.5 years (March 1915 until November 1917) while serving in the trenches in France is remarkable.  In the optimistic early days of 1915, he gathered flowers from each of the trenches.

Flowers collected in the trenches by Eugene Toulouse, 1915

By December 29, 1916, Eugène’s spirits were flagging and for good reason.  Below is a translated excerpt from that letter.

“ . . . From time to time here at this Compagnie de Dépôt we are almost as brutally treated as you are, and twice I was almost thrown in jail without any reason. You better believe it’s harsh to be treated that way especially because it’s possible that in one week we will have our pants on fire and our feet freeze. I am beginning to believe that we will never beat them although you know my morale was pretty high.  I can’t wait for the escape.”

[Translation by Dominique Coulombe, Senior Scholarly Resources Librarian]

To read that letter and all the others in this diminutive but interesting scrapbook visit the John Hay Library and request the Toulouse Family Correspondence (Ms.2012.017).

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Celebrating Emancipation

Posted by hsnyder@brown.edu on January 15, 2013

Transparency displayed in Philadelphia to celebrate emancipation in Maryland

January 1, 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the document now known as the Emancipation Proclamation.  Though its title suggests a simple executive order issued by the President, in fact the Emancipation Proclamation had a complex and fascinating evolution that is worthy of further discussion.  Bookseller and bibliographer Charles Francis Eberstadt set out to document its printing history, and in 1950 published a bibliography of every print copy of the proclamation made during the Civil War that he had identified, back to the first Cabinet discussions of the Preliminary Proclamation of Emancipation in July 1862.  Once Lincoln and his Cabinet finalized the text of the preliminary Proclamation of Emancipation, copies of the text were immediately printed in the leading newspapers the following day — September 23, 1862.  Plain text copies were also separately printed at the State Department, first for high level goverment officials and diplomats overseas who would have need of it, and then for the official State Department folio record.  The War Department had it printed, as General Order No. 139, for distribution to Union officers in the field.  A few privately issued copies were also printed, notably in Ohio and Massachusetts, between October and December of 1862.  But all of these early printings produced only the text of the proclamation.  After January 1, 1863, celebrations of the end of slavery began in earnest, and printings of the Emancipation Proclamation began to take on a growing range of decorative elements, some quite large and elaborate, others smaller and intended to be kept sedately carried in a pocket.  Eberstadt was kind enough to provide a set of photstats of all of the copies of the Emancipation Proclamation he had identified to the Hay Library for its McLellan Lincoln Collection, to supplement our large collection of original decorative printings.  These materials are available to interested researchers, both at the Hay Library and online in our Lincoln Broadsides collection.

 

William H. Pratt's calligraphic Emancipation Proclamation as a portrait of Lincoln (Eberstadt 40)

Emancipation Proclamation by Rufus Blanchard (Chicago 1864)

Pocket edition of Emancipation Proclamation with decorations (Eberstadt 18 variant)

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Money, Money, Money!

Posted by Karen A. Eberhart on January 14, 2013

A collection of Rhode Island currency and fiscal documents was recently donated by Cynthia Frost (Vice President and Chief Investment Officer at Brown) in memory of her father Michael Freezy Frost, who collected the materials during his lifetime.  The Frost Currency collection (Ms.2012.031) contains examples of 26 pieces of currency, of varying types, issued in Rhode Island between 1775 to 1929, one bank note issued in Delaware in 1759, and 5 documents related to the fiscal history of 18th century Rhode Island.

Front of Rhode Island 20 Dollar bill, 1780

Back of Rhode Island 20 Dollar bill, 1780

This 20 Dollar bill was issued in 1780 and is a promissory note from the State of Rhode Island.  which promised to pay the bearer the principal plus 5% interest every year in 6 years.  The note was then traded like money for goods and services. Whoever possessed the note at the end of the 6-year term collected the principal and all the interest.  Notice the offset text on the left side of the bill, the original signatures and the unique handwritten number, all of which were meant to frustrate counterfeiters.  The back adds offset text in red and a woodcut image which would be very difficult to reproduce exactly.

Rhode Island 6 Pence bill, 1786

The State of Rhode Island also issued money.  The Six Pence bill was issued in 1786 and is printed on only one side.  No interest accrues with this bill, it is solely meant as a medium of exchange.

 

Front of Roger Williams National Bank of Providence 10 Dollar bill, 1865

Back of Roger Williams National Bank of Providence 10 Dollar bill, 1865

Banks got into the business of printing money in the 1840s and they chose the images and style of the bills.  The image of Benjamin Franklin discovering electricity with his kite was clearly so well known by 1865 that it needed no caption on this 10 Dollar bill.  The back of the bill shows DeSoto discovering the Mississippi.  Perhaps the choice of that image was meant to create solidarity within the United States again since that area of the country had so recently been prevented from seceding.

To learn more about this collection visit the John Hay Library.

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Many Pigs of Many Pens

Posted by Karen A. Eberhart on November 15, 2012

Upon first glance it seems that people in 1908 have no idea how to draw, let alone produce a successful image of a pig.And then you look more closely at the poem at the beginning of the book and it becomes clear.  They are drawing these pigs blindfolded.

This volume, Guest Book : Many Pigs of Many Pens, was published in 1902 as a playful alternative to a traditional guest book.  In conventional guest books, visitors were expected to sign their name and contribute a poem, sketch, quote, or witticism.  The purpose of this guest book explains the statement on the cover – “A Pig in Time Saves a Rhyme.”This copy was given as a present to John Nicholas Brown II (1900-1979) in 1908.  The first image above shows the eight-year-old’s attempt at a pig.  It is one of many items in the Natalie Bayard Brown papers (Ms.2007.011) at the John Hay Library.

Mrs. Natalie Bayard Dresser Brown was the wife of John Nicholas Brown (1861-1900) and the mother of John Nicholas Brown II (1900-1979).  Her papers reflect her active involvement in the many Brown family businesses, the Democratic Party during the 1930s, and numerous charitable causes through correspondence with family and friends, writings and speeches, scrapbooks, and photographs.

The elder John Nicholas died of typhoid fever 2 months after the birth of his son followed soon after by the death of his brother Harold Brown. Those tragic events made John Nicholas Brown II the heir to the Brown family fortune and he was dubbed the “richest baby in America.”  The John Nicholas Brown II papers (Ms.2007.012) contain a wealth of material on the visual arts, art collections and collecting activities, and public service at the state, national and international levels, as well as the history of Brown University and the State of Rhode Island during the twentieth century.

Both of those collections, and many others related to the Brown family, can be viewed at the John Hay Library.

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A Women’s Studies Pioneer – Elaine Ryan Hedges

Posted by Karen A. Eberhart on October 10, 2012

Elaine Hedges

The Elaine Hedges papers (Ms.2011.007) are now available for research

Elaine Hedges is best known for her ground-breaking scholarship on the significance of American women and sewing — particularly in reference to their quiltmaking in the nineteenth century.  Her detailed and innovative study of quilts as encoded texts brought to the fore important historical information about women and their social, political and artistic endeavors that had previously been overlooked by mainstream scholars.  Hedges was also a leader in the area of Women’s Studies through the foundation of the Women’s Studies program at Towson State University in Maryland in 1972.  Throughout her career, she was a fierce advocate for curriculum reform and of a more inclusive canon of American literature so as to incorporate works by women, ethnic minorities, and the gay and lesbian community.

The collection thoroughly documents all aspects of Hedges long and productive career as one of the most influential feminist scholars of the 20th century.  Her scholarship and teaching were wide-ranging and reflect the history of the women’s movement and the creation of women’s studies programs.

 

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Jonathan Russell and the War of 1812: The Inside Scoop on America’s First War

Posted by Karen A. Eberhart on September 20, 2012

The papers of American diplomat Jonathan Russell provide an intimate look inside the grievances that caused the War of 1812 and its ultimate resolution in December 1814.

Major causes of the war stemmed from Great Britain’s fight with France which had been raging since 1803.  Eager to bolster its own resources and reduce supplies for France, Great Britain impressed American seamen into service with the British Navy and blockaded the American coast to prevent provisions from reaching France.  Those actions, among others, did not sit well with the Americans and President James Madison declared war on Great Britain in June 1812.

Jonathan Russell was a witness to all of the intrigue.  His diplomatic career began when President James Madison appointed him chargé d’affaires in Paris in 1810. The next year he was given the same position in London and from 1814 to 1818 he was United States minister to Sweden and Norway. Russell was also one of the negotiators of the Treaty of Ghent which ended the War of 1812.

The papers of Jonathan Russell include correspondence with all the prominent politicians, diplomats, and businessmen of the day.  They also include letters from seamen, who were impressed by the British, seeking his assistance to return home again.  Of particular note are the “Records of U.S. Commissioners to Negotiate with Great Britain at Ghent” which provide a detailed account of the negotiations with Great Britain to end the war.

To learn more about the Jonathan Russell papers, see the finding aid available on the Rhode Island Archives and Manuscripts Online website.

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FOCUS ON SPECIAL COLLECTIONS: Geoffrey Hill and His Books Gallery Talk September 25th at noon

Posted by Ann Morgan Dodge on September 18, 2012

At noon on Sept. 25, Prof. Ken Haynes will give a gallery talk on his exhibit Geoffrey Hill and His Books. The exhibit is in honor of poet and former colleague Geoffrey Hill on the occasion of his 80th birthday. The talk will take place in the North Gallery of the John Hay Library.
The exhibit includes materials from the Library’s General and Special Collections as well as books from the private collection of Haynes (including works that formerly belonged to Hill). The exhibit is organized around fifteen published books of poetry, from For the Unfallen (1959) to Odi Barbare (2012). A few works have been chosen to accompany each of these books, to illustrate the different kinds of publications that have influenced Hill’s writing (children’s books, fantasy tales, poetry, art books, historical scholarship) and the different ways they have influenced it (in visual layout, in dramatizing the physical act of reading, in allusion and quotation, and in other ways).

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New Exhibit on View: Geoffrey Hill and His Books

Posted by Ann Morgan Dodge on September 14, 2012

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] - Geoffrey Hill and His Books, an exhibit curated by Kenneth Haynes, Professor of Comparative Literature and Classics at Brown University, in honor of poet and former colleague Geoffrey Hill on the occasion of Hill’s 80th birthday, is on view in the North Gallery, John Hay Library, now through October 1, 2012.

The exhibit includes materials from the Library’s General and Special Collections as well as books from the private collection of Haynes (including works that formerly belonged to Hill).  The exhibit is organized around fifteen published books of poetry, from For the Unfallen (1959) to Odi Barbare (2012). A few works have been chosen to accompany each of these books, to illustrate the different kinds of publications that have influenced Hill’s writing (children’s books, fantasy tales, poetry, art books, historical scholarship) and the different ways they have influenced it (in visual layout, in dramatizing the physical act of reading, in allusion and quotation, and in other ways). Drop in the Hay and take a look!

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James Manning

Posted by Karen A. Eberhart on May 8, 2012

This week, as we look forward to the 242nd Commencement, we provide you with a glimpse into the early days and struggles of this venerable institution to gain respect and scholars.  During the first 3 years, 1764-1767, James Manning was not only the first President but also the only faculty member.  The first commencement was held in 1769 at which time 7 young men graduated and 21 men of distinction were awarded Honorary Degrees.  On November 12, 1772, James Manning wrote to his friend John C. Ryland in England with the happy news that John C. Ryland, Junior had received his degree from Rhode Island College that same spring.  He also took the opportunity to comment on the political situation affecting the ability of the school to attract students.

James Manning to John C. Ryland, 12 Nov 1772, James Manning papers, MS-1C-1, Brown University Archives

“With this I send you a Catalogue of those who have received the honours of the College, from the first [to] our last Commencement, I believe, acquired us considerable Reputation amongst the Literate in N. England and had we not to combat with the inveterate Enmity of the N. England Clergy, it would have added to the Number of our Scholars, but they take unwearied pains to prevent any from coming, if possible, and don’t  [?] at the Methods of carrying their Points: but, thank God, they don’t govern the World.”

James Manning was clearly able to overcome the clergy that worked against him.  A total of 40,244 scholars applied to be admitted to Brown University for the 2011-2012 academic year. Of that number a total of 8,454 students began their studies in September 2011.  James Manning would no doubt be flabbergasted by those numbers and extremely pleased.

You can learn more about James Manning’s experience as the first President of Brown University by visiting the Guide to the James Manning Papers (MS-1C-1).  Digital copies of all his correspondence can be viewed by clicking on the link for each item in the inventory.

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Time Capsule

Posted by Karen A. Eberhart on April 18, 2012

A recent blog post titled Baptist Churches announced the arrival of the records for 4 Baptist Churches in Rhode Island.  This week brings a glimpse into the life of one of them – the Roger Williams Baptist Church of Providence, RI.

How often have you walked past the cornerstone of a building and wished you could look inside the time capsule housed within?  What do people put in them?  Do the contents survive the journey through time?

The members of the Roger Williams Baptist Church built a chapel in 1889 to accommodate their growing community.  On September 14, 1889 they celebrated the new building with a service to lay the new cornerstone.  Underneath the stone they enclosed a time capsule in a copper box.  When the membership swelled to over 400 members they built an addition to the church in 1906. The time capsule was moved and placed underneath the new cornerstone.  The photo below shows the stone suspended on a pulley.  The man standing in the middle is Manton Metcalf holding the copper box in his left hand.

Laying the cornerstone for the new addition on the Roger Williams Baptist Church, Providence, RI, June 2, 1906.

David Dobson opening the copper time capsule box, October 1, 2011.

Starting in the 1950s, the membership of the church steadily declined until weekly attendance dwindling to less than twenty in 2010.  The remaining members voted to close the church with the last service on November 20, 2011.  But before they closed their doors they opened the cornerstone and retrieved the time capsule.

What they found inside were mementos from 1889 documenting the church, Rhode Island, and the world including: a list of all the members of the church, constitution and by-laws of the church, publications relating to the Baptist Church in RI, 2 newspapers, money, and 35 small flags from most of the countries in the world at the time.

Contents of the 1889 time capsule of the Roger Williams Baptist Church, Providence, RI.

The most curious object is a small American flag with 36 stars.  There were 38 states in September, 1889 when the time capsule was created (4 more states were admitted in November 1889) and the inscription reads “God Bless the Commonwealth of Rhode Island, Loyalty to Ceasar.”  The flag probably dates to 1865-1867, the only years during which there were 36 states.  Rhode Island is generally not called a Commonwealth. Only 4 states use that term in their official names: Massachusetts, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.  And why is someone, who doesn’t know how to spell Caesar, pledging their loyalty to him?  The reason it was included may simply be because it was the smallest flag available and the inscription was written years prior by someone else.  It is nonetheless a curious item.

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